Stroke Risk Higher for Middle-Aged Women

"Both women and general practitioners underestimate women's heart problems," Towfighi said. "There have been many studies in the past that have shown doctors feel men are at higher risk."

So how can women protect themselves? It appears that the single most important thing women can do is to watch their weight.

Women should "keep their weight in line," Bottinger said.

"Keep that waist size less than 35 inches! Low-cal and low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet. Exercise daily for 30 minutes," she said.

Women in this age group must also be diligent in keeping their regular appointments with their doctors, Towfighi said.

"It's really important to pay attention to the risk factors at an earlier age," she said. "Starting in the 30s, we suggest regular checkups with your physician. We recommend lifestyle changes like a heart-healthy diet and exercise 30 minutes a day."

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